The losses to the Ohio State Buckeyes are starting to get to Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh, as nothing makes him angrier than losing to them.
You’re never the best version of yourself when you’re angry.
So what does that make Jim Harbaugh, who is apparently angry all the time because his Michigan Wolverines cannot beat the Ohio State Buckeyes for the life of him? Since Harbaugh arrived back in Ann Arbor to coach his alma mater’s team in 2015, the Wolverines have gone 0-for in their biggest rivalry series. He’s got to win one of these at some point. It’s starting to get to him.
On Wednesday, Harbaugh appeared on Lunch Talk Live with NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico and said the following about needing to beat the Buckeyes. “Yeah, we gotta beat Ohio State,” said Harbaugh. “Nothing makes us angrier than that, or me. That’s what we’re working toward every day. We’ve beaten everybody else, but we haven’t beaten them.”
And it’s not just the hostile nature of the rivalry that makes it so important for Harbaugh to get a precious W in that game. He understands fully what this game signifies in the Big Ten landscape. The Wolverines won’t get to Indianapolis otherwise. “And that’s what we have to do: beat them, win a (Big Ten) championship, get ourselves in the playoffs, win a national championship.”
Michigan may have the eighth-most wins in the Power 5 since Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor, but that’s such a moot point. Nobody cares how many nine or 10-win seasons you have if you can’t even win your own division once. Since Harbaugh’s return to Michigan, three of the Wolverines’ division rivals have won the Big Ten: Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.
Having the eighth-most wins in the Power 5 over the last half decade pretty much means you go to a New Year’s Six bowl and lose to the third or fourth-best SEC team. While there’s no doubt historically that Ohio State is the superior football program over Michigan, you have to beat your rival once in an olympiad. Otherwise, why did all these kids come to play for you at your school?
The shame in it all was last year was the year Michigan should have gotten the thing done. Harbaugh’s perpetual nemesis Urban Meyer retired for a second time and his quarterback Dwayne Haskins went pro. 2019 was Ryan Day’s first year as head coach and Justin Fields‘ first year in Columbus at quarterback. The game was at The Big House and the Wolverines still lost, 56-27.
In the 21st century, the Buckeyes have won 17 of the 20 games. Even if the 2010 victory was later vacated, the Buckeyes have won eight in a row, 14 of the last 15 and 16 of the last 19. The last time the Wolverines won back-to-back games over Ohio State, Harbaugh was still playing quarterback in the NFL for the then-San Diego Chargers. Bill Clinton was in the White House.
Sure, Harbaugh can be as angry as he wants about how things have gone vs. the Buckeyes, but that doesn’t change a damn thing. He can try to go toe-to-toe with the recruiting powerhouse that is Ohio State, but will come up short more times than not.
What really needs to happen is great coaching needs to manifest in Ann Arbor. This is where good teams become great under legendary coaches. Do you think Bill Snyder was swimming in talent at Kansas State? How about Gary Pinkel at Missouri? Was Dan Mullen rolling in the five-stars at Mississippi State? No, no, no! But all three coaches still elevated their programs to new heights.
While we should commend Harbaugh for providing great stability to the Michigan program the last fives, because it was a total grease fire before he arrived and we should never overlook that, Michigan needs to be more than a third-place team in its own division. They have to start beating their three rivals consistently. Michigan State is trending down, but Ohio State is definitely not.
Your anger might be a frustrating mess, but it’s only a symptom of a much larger chronic problem.